Watched This Month: February 2016

Greetings, everybody! We’ve just snuck into March, which means we’re slightly overdue another addition of Watched This Month. February looked to be a slow month at first (after I devoured more than 35 hours of film and television in January), but then I got into a certain TV series, which has been eating away at my time ever since.

Previous: Watched This Month: January 2016

Film Rating
I Saw the Devil (Dir. Kim Jee-woon)

My first foreign language film of the year (long overdue). I Saw the Devil solidifies my belief that South Korea is home to some real pioneers of gritty, revenge thrillers. Byung-hun Lee stars as a special agent plotting revenge for the murder of his fiancée through a series of captures and releases. Min-sik Choi of Oldboy fame plays the big bad and – as expected – he’s terrifyingly good.

The cinematography is gorgeous and – though I felt the film was perhaps a little too long – I can’t commend the writing enough. Both the plot and the main cast are absolutely absorbing. I went in looking forward to Min-sik Choi, but it was Byung-hun Lee that stole the show. To see his character decline from a seemingly lovable fiancé who sings to his wife-to-be over the phone, into this morally ambiguous beast of a man – almost akin to those he’s hunting – was fascinating. Lee felt very authentic and I can’t wait to work my way through his filmography.

It’s gritty and gruesome, but also beautiful and fascinating, albeit in very dark ways. If you’re in the mood for a superbly grisly and utmost rousing film, look no further.

★★★★☆

Just one movie this month, but I haven’t been slacking (honest). My time has been devoted to some long overdue television.

TV Show
Rating
Breaking Bad (Created by Vince Gilligan)

Yes, I know. I’m way behind. Never mind jumping on the bandwagon; the bandwagon has long since come and gone.

I remember back during my first year of university, my classmates and I had to record an interview one day (nothing serious — we just needed to get used to the recording equipment as part of our journalism class) and my group wound up with me asking everybody questions about Breaking Bad, because I was the only one who hadn’t seen the show. It makes me laugh, thinking about it now. How naive I was. Despite the gushing praise given by my classmates, I continued to avoid this clear marvel of television for whatever reason. But now I’ve arrived and I’ll tell you, being able to marathon it is wonderful.

At this moment in time, I am three episodes into the final season. Since starting Breaking Bad almost two weeks ago, I have watched perhaps four or five episodes a day, so it’s difficult to comment on individual seasons since it’s all blurred into one. Commenting on anything at all seems a bit inane, though. Everyone has heard it all before by this point, but I can’t sing its praises enough. You know a show is special when it causes you to recall every series you’ve ever loved and consider whether they compare at all. I’ll offer some proper thoughts when I have watched the final thirteen episodes, but if you are like I was and haven’t seen Breaking Bad… wait no longer. Watch it, please.

★★★★★

Not a lot of individual things to comment on this month, apologies about that. By the end of next month, I will have finished Breaking Bad and also the fourth season of House of Cards, which is due for release in only four days. I’ll probably also want to devour Better Call Saul coming from the inevitable Breaking Bad high, so a lot more television next time!

Watch anything exciting this February? Let me know in the comments!

Watched This Month: January 2016

Greetings, ronin and welcome to the first edition of ‘Watched This Month’. We’re starting off – sensibly so – with January. Just in case you have no idea what’s going on; this is a monthly blog post detailing every film and television show I have watched in the past four weeks, regardless of when they were first released or whether I have seen them before. Last year, I only saw about fifty movies, but we’re at eight this month already! Any film or TV show that I have previously discussed in detail will be hyperlinked. I try to keep organised; I hope the table layout is easy to navigate and pleasant on the eyes!

Previous: Watched This Year: 2015

Film Rating
Anomalisa (Dir. Charlie Kaufman)

Anomalisa is one of those films where – after viewing – you need to have a little think to decide how you feel about it. It’s certainly well crafted, but I can’t help but feel slightly indifferent towards it.

It’s a stunningly bleak film and one of the most reflective pieces I have seen in a long time, with multiple avenues of interpretation; perhaps it’s a commentary on the monotony of life; or possibly a story of a man so warped by the falseness of the service industry, he has become disassociated with a faux society; or perhaps it’s a tragedy with deep psychological roots.

There are many layers to Anomalisa and I’m sure it will grow ever-more profound and poignant to those who enjoyed it, but come the end it felt rather insipid to me. I absolutely appreciate the themes, the writing and the animation, but it failed to rouse my emotions. I didn’t find it at all gripping and though I feel it has reasonable substance, I have no desire to watch it again. It left me thoroughly conflicted.

★★☆☆☆
Don Jon (Dir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

A mildly entertaining yet fairy unexceptional film. Don Jon is coherently put together and features some incredible talent, but never quite piqued my interest enough. Feels like it contained some important messages about vanity and the age we live in, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care. Scarlett’s character had a very nice watch, though.

★★☆☆☆
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Dir. Wes Anderson)

In my ‘Watched This Year’ blog post at the end of 2015, I wrote about how I finally wanted to get around to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Well, I watched it a day later and I loved it. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori were absolutely riveting together and then there’s the phenomenal supporting cast – phew!

An absolutely marvellous film full of character. I enjoyed The Life Aquatic and loved Moonrise Kingdom, but The Grand Budapest Hotel trumps them both. It’s high time I delved into the rest of Wes Anderson’s catalogue.

★★★★☆
The Little Prince (Dir. Mark Osborne)

My favourite animated film of the year thus far and it’s going to take an awful lot to dethrone it. The Little Prince is utterly beautiful and completely solidifies my belief that Mark Osborne is an extraordinary filmmaker who has yet to put a foot wrong.

★★★★☆
The Peanuts Movie (Dir. Steve Martino)

Or ‘Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie’ as it’s melodically called in the UK. An adorable film, lovingly written and pays homage to the original comic strip and television series while also appearing modern and fresh. Gutted it was overlooked at the Oscars. What a bunch of blockheads.

★★★☆☆
The Prestige (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

Slowly working my way through Christopher Nolan’s filmography. The Prestige is a fantastic film; exquisitely performed and well written, with many unforeseen twists. It hasn’t stuck with me as much as I anticipated, though. Insomnia remains my favourite thus far, with only Memento left to view.

★★★☆☆
The Royal Tenenbaums (Dir. Wes Anderson)

The day after seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel, I watched The Royal Tenenbaums and my admiration for Mr. Anderson grows evermore. A superbly charming film with such absorbing characters brought wonderfully to life.

★★★★☆
The Woodsman (Dir. Nicole Kassell)

A tremendous film on an incredibly sensitive subject. Kevin Bacon plays a convicted child molester recently released on parole. It’s an extremely thought provoking film, understandably so.

Bacon’s character is neither light nor dark – at times you feel disgust towards him, but at others you want to feel sympathetic and sometimes you feel as though you need to second-guess his actions – which produced very conflicted and nervous feelings from me as the audience.

Kevin Bacon delivers an Oscar-worthy performance and the writing and subject matter are both handled sensibly. The Woodsman is certainly a film for a rational audience and one of the more powerful and pensive movies I have seen in recent times.

★★★★☆

And now onto television! Just three different series so far; one rewatch, one disappointment and one masterpiece. I’m not sure what TV I’ll be watching in February, but House of Cards returns in March and Game of Thrones will be back in April!

TV Show
Rating
Crashing (Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

A cliche-ridden mess, with dialogue that made me wince and characters so banal there’s more originality in a re-run. The humour is tasteless and repetitive and while the setting has traces of intrigue, everything else is so drab and tiresome that it never amounts to anything.

★☆☆☆☆
Fargo, Season 1 (Created by Noah Hawley)

There was some clunky dialogue, a little forced exposition and a couple of far-fetched coincidences, but I absolutely see what makes Fargo so popular. On the whole, it is an all-around fantastic show. For the few lapses in the writing, there are so many highs; some truly shocking moments of tension, utterly wonderful flows of dialogue – effortlessly delivered – and remarkable characterisation. Martin Freeman is perfect as Lester Nygaard – so absorbing that I actually missed him whenever he was off-screen – and Billy Bob Thornton is incredibly villainous yet so charismatic and fascinating, that you almost want him to get away with everything so his devious antics never end. A thoroughly tremendous first season.

★★★★
Fargo, Season 2 (Created by Noah Hawley)

Took everything that made the first season so fantastic and elevated it to even greater heights. The story has an arguably larger scope than the first season and I was slightly hesitant that could possibly detract from the shows quirky, small town tone, but despite all the differences, it never lost that Fargo ambiance. The cinematography and editing were always on-point, with the split-screen effect an unconventional but entirely fascinating way to present a number of sequences. The ending seems like it would perhaps split audiences, but I adored it. I also appreciate that the audience are never spoon-fed any details; a lot of it is in the subtext and I loved that some of the more unusual moments go without explanation.

This season is – in ways – a prequel to the first, as there are a couple of recurring characters. Due to this, I thought much of the tension could be potentially lessened given that the audience already has a good idea of who will come out alive, but I was shocked to find this wasn’t the case. The writing never falters and when Fargo gets tense, your heart will need some recuperation time afterwards. Rarely have my eyes been so glued to the screen during a TV show. Furthermore, the cast absolutely shine. In the first season, Martin Freeman was my captivation; it was never dull and the other characters were compelling in their own ways, but I was always very glad whenever it returned to Freeman. In season two, however, every single character had a compelling persona and a comprehensive back-story or part to play. Had I actually watched the second season of Fargo when it was broadcast last year, I would have undoubtedly placed it as my favourite series of the year (which I eventually gave to This is England ’90).

★★★★★
Game of Thrones, Season 5 (Created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss)

Watched season five for the second time as my girlfriend wanted to catch up with the series before season six. My thoughts remain generally the same; it’s a strong season with some tremendous moments (especially in the last three episodes), just not as great as it has been. It’s always more satisfying being able to marathon it, though. The earlier episodes didn’t feel as though they dragged like I seem to remember.

★★★

That’s it for January. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first edition of ‘Watched This Month’ and stick around for the follow-ups. I’m very open to recommendations, so let me know if there’s anything in particular that you would like me to check out.

See you again.